Sunday, April 21, 2013

BMC clears building on ‘mangrove land’

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has granted a controversial builder the permission to build on a "mangrove plot" in Oshiwara-Lokhandwala area despite the land being at the heart of a pending public interest litigation and a chargesheet.

An executive engineer in BMC's building proposal department, P G Deshpande, reportedly issued a commencement certificate (CC) on April 6 to the developer to construct on a 7,741-sq-m land adjacent to Oshiwara Creek. Lying between Lokhandwala bridge and Lokhandwala Club, the plot comes under the Coastal Regulatory Zone-1 category, according to local activists, which means that no construction should be allowed on it.

Alarmed by the development, the Oshiwara Lokhandwala Citizens' Association (OLCA) sent a legal notice on April 16 to civic chief Sitaram Kunte and Deshpande. The association's advocate Gayatri Singh stated in the notice: it is surprising...that while on one hand the "matter (in court) has been adjourned on several occasions to enable the BMC to file its reply, the BMC has gone ahead and granted CC to construct the proposed building".

"It is surprising that this CC has been granted in spite of a chargesheet being filed against the developer subsequent to (an) FIR having been filed for destroying mangroves, which the developer sought to quash and failed," added Singh, who is also a resident of the area.

Last year, the same developer had allegedly dumped debris on the same plot and stored construction material there, prompting protests. Urged by locals, state environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh had set up an inquiry under the suburban collector, who filed an FIR against the builder. At the same time, a PIL was filed in the case. As a result of this struggle by locals, the debris was removed from the plot and part of the mangroves saved. Now, however, locals fear that their fight is being subverted.

OLCA chairperson Ashoke Pandit said, "The BMC had taken action against the builder last year. We now want municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte to intervene and suspend the concerned officers (who granted permission to the developer)."

On Sunday, TOI tried contacting Deshpande and Kunte, but the executive engineer's cellphone was found switched off and the municipal chief could not be reached. A senior official in BMC's building proposal department said of the grant of commencement certificate: "There cannot be such a glaring anomaly. I'll look into the matter."

TOI had carried reports on January 4, 2012, and March 20, 2012, highlighting residents' attempts at, and success in, ousting the developer from the plot and saving a big swathe of "mangrove land" from illegal construction. Residents say the land falls under CRZ-I category according to Maharshtra Coastal Zone Management Authority maps as well as Wetland Atlas, which was prepared by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Dumping resumes at Mumbai’s biggest Coastal Regulation Zone violation site

December 10, 2009
Massive dumping has resumed at the biggest Coastal Regulation Zone violation site in Mumbai region. Since a few months intermittent dumping was going on but since past few days 300 trucks are dumping everyday between 2 – 9  am
The Google Earth images above give an idea of the location of the area and a better idea of the scale of destruction
Mr. Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister for Environment and Forests

Mrs. Valsa Nair Singh
Secretary Environment
Chairman Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority
Government of Maharashtra
Mr. S S Sandhu
Divisional Commissioner
Konkan Division
Government of Maharashtra
Dear Mr. Ramesh, Mrs. Singh Mr. Sandhu and others,

Dumping of mud and debris has resumed at the 500 acre plot opposite Millat Nagat. Just to give a brief background, the concerned plot of land is situated in Andheri (W), opposite Millat Nagar.
What is land now was 500 acres of lush mangroves till the end of 1998. Between 1999-2002 almost 500 trucks of debris were dumped on top of the mangroves everyday and the whole forest was flattened out to make land for a golf course and villa scheme.
There is enough record to show that the government officials and even some civil society groups were sufficiently seized of the matter but no action was taken. Between Jan 2002 – Sep 2002 some local activists worked at getting various pieces of information together which showed a long trail of illegal practices and mis-representation followed to get the permission.
On 30th Sept 2002 the evidence was presented to MOEF, which immediately revoked the permission and dumping stopped.
After a year the parties concerned managed to get an order from Bombay HC to resume dumping which was finally challenged by a SLP in SC by BEAG in Jan-Feb 2004. Since then there has been no activity at the plot even as the sea has started moving in at places.
Now since a month there has been an increased incidence of dumping of debris and the modus operandi this time is t dump between 2 – 6 am. We have received calls from atleast 3 neighbours expressing concern and inquiring as to whether there have been some changes in the legal status.
We are attaching the blog link below to show all relevant information, pictures, Sep 2002 order suspending the permission etc.
Requesting MCZMA and Mr. Jairam Ramesh to take cognizance of the matter, call for an immediate halt to the dumping of debris and presenting the MOEF position on what action should be taken towards reversing the damage and punishing the violators all of whom are well identified.

Requesting Mr. Debi Goenka of BEAG to kindly update with reference to the conditions of the SLP and the efforts of BEAG/Debi since 2004 in this regard. A copy of the 2004order will be much appreciated. Requesting all those marked on this list to show their involvement in this important violation. The learning from 26/7 should not be forgotten and it is important that when this kind of a violation happens then those concerned for the state of governance of the city as a whole rather than just particular neighborhoods show responsible action by intervening.
Pravin Choudhary                                                            Rishi Aggarwal
Hon. Secretary                                                                Hon. Jt. Secretary
Mangrove Society of India (Mumbai Chapter)
 related news